Q: My brother-in-law repeatedly asks personal questions of me
and others all the time. He will ask about health issues, family
planning issues and income issues. At Thanksgiving he had too much to
drink and cornered me and proceeded to ask me about what I earn and what
my wife earns. I am dreading Christmas. How do people answers
questions about compensation? Signed, Perplexed
A: It sounds like your brother-in-law oversteps his boundaries on a
number of issues. Compensation is a personal subject to most of us.
Some of us are more willing. A few, mostly senior-level executives,
have to wrangle with compensation being published because of the
employer’s public status or if the company is a non-profit.
I would suggest trying to answer his response using a light-hearted
approach first and then being more direct if his questioning continues.
My initial response would be something like “enough to live on but I
still have to watch my spending during the holidays.” If the
questioning continues, I would respond more forcefully. One option
would be “David, you continue to ask me questions on person matters like
compensation, how many kids we will have, whether I have had a
vasectomy, etc. Maybe I am a private person, but I prefer not to share
some of this information. Instead, we can talk about the Pats could
overcome some of the team injuries this year.” Hopefully then, David
will get it.
Some people never get it and will keep prying. David might get it
and remember it, depending upon his level of attentiveness and
Families are great. However, the holidays can escalate the level of annoying behavior.
Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.